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Hotel Rwanda (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature length directors commentary. Don Cheadle selected scenes commentary. A Message For Peace: Making Hotel Rwanda.

ON APRIL 6, 1994, Major General Habyarimana and the President of Burundi, were assassinated in a plane crash by members of their own party in Rwanda.

Their deaths prompted the cold-blooded murder of almost one million people in just 100 days in Rwanda, in what shamefully became the fastest genocide in modern history.

The bloodshed was the culmination of years of tribal warfare between the Hutus and the Tutsis, and was instigated by the Hutus using propaganda from their extremist radio station, RTML, which convinced many ordinary people that they had to massacre their neighbours in order to preserve their own existence.

Most of the victims were killed by machete and the campaign was so swift and all-consuming that Tutsi children were deliberately targeted in a bid to wipe out a generation.

Perhaps even more shameful, however, was the reaction from the rest of the world.

Despite Red Cross estimates that hundreds of thousands were being slaughtered, the UN reduced its peace-keeping force from 2,500 to 270 soldiers, while the rest of the world looked on in silence.

Only now, ten years on, is the genocide receiving the attention it deserved, with several politicians from around the world making the pilgrimage to Rwanda to ask survivors for their forgiveness.

And as the world opens its eyes to the suffering which took place, so too has the creative community with several new films set to explore the issue.

First up is Hotel Rwanda, a heartfelt and moving account of one of the greatest heroes to emerge from the killing - hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina.

Paul managed to save the lives of 1,268 people, providing refuge for countless Tutsis and Hutu sympathisers at the Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali.

Despite being a Hutu himself, Paul's wife was a Tutsi and it was his love for his family, first and foremost, that compelled him to reach out a helping hand to over 1,000 peple against increasingly unlikely odds.

The film chronicles how Paul, played with great conviction by the ever-impressive Don Cheadle, used every bargaining tool and bribe at his disposal in order to protect the people he loved, no matter what the personal risk to himself.

As such, it takes a safe approach to the suffering, opting to refrain from depicting the actual bloodshed in favour of creating a climate of fear as seen through the eyes of Paul and his family.

So while some viewers are likely to criticise the approach for shying away from the violent horror of those days, the film is likely to reach a far bigger audience by focusing on the humanity which took place, rather than the outrage.

As such, Cheadle has rightly been rewarded with an Oscar nomination for his honest portrayal - which is sure to draw comparison with Liam Neeson in Schindler's List - given the way he changes from career-fixated businessman to someone who acts from the heart.

And he is ably supported by the likes of Nick Nolte, as one of the few, helpess UN supervisors who remained, and Joaquin Phoenix, as a US camera-man who is torn apart by his inability to prevent the suffering and by the reaction of the rest of the world.

Director, Terry George, also deserves credit for avoiding too many cliches or the obvious overdose of sentiment, keeping things rooted in reality instead.

As such, his film may feel like a television movie at times, but it's power is such that it rises above any budget constraints.

It is a glowing testament to the power of the individual to make a difference that ought to be made essential viewing.

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